November 22, 2011
Alex and Tina had a great life together and a love for each other that was obvious even to strangers. They had been together for over 30 years, raising children and sharing a home. Alex had not been feeling well for a few days and a doctor’s appointment had been made, but Alex passed away before that appointment was due.
The house had been in Alex’s name and because her full name was Alexandra, the couple had never married. Alex intended to create a will and leave the house to Tina, but it felt to them that they had time and, what could happen anyway? Alex’s family knew her wishes.
Instead, Tina was left with no home and no way to purchase one. She expected to stay in the home she shared (and helped pay for) with Alex, but feelings over Alex’s sudden death had flared and there were not-so-subtle comments made that Tina should have seen to it that Alex got to the doctor sooner.
The face of American families has changed over the past few decades, but laws were written with the traditional family (man, woman, 2.5 kids) in mind. Rules allowing for a spouse’s elective share of the estate don’t apply in non-traditional relationships.
In that case, it is important for couples to have a will or trust and use contractual agreements that outline the rights and responsibilities of each partner.
This can be easily done and there is no time like the present. As a Sacramento estate planning attorney who serves non-traditional families and same-sex partners, I welcome your questions and hope that I can assist you when you create or revise your estate planning documents.